The Choice

Just a few weeks ago we celebrated Christmas.  Probably my favorite time of the entire year.  (Other than  the weather. =)  And my favorite holiday along with Easter and Thanksgiving and Independence Day.  (Interesting how they all share a common thread, eh?)

Anyway, back to Christmas, the main thing is of course the fact that it commemorates Jesus’ supremely sacrificial self-humbling in voluntarily setting aside the comforts of Heaven and coming down to Earth to become a man (Philippians 2:5-11) [and even lower than that to become “sin  on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21)].  As my favorite song of the season says, “Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.”  Indeed.  But my second  favorite part (definitely not unrelated to the first) is the great music, all those great songs celebrating and aiding us in celebrating that most momentous of marvelous occasions in all of history (His-story).

Yes, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing  is my favorite with Joy to the World  very high on that list, but one written much more recently has also made it into my “Top 10” and that’s When Love Came Down  by Point of Grace.

It literally brings tears of pure joy to my eyes virtually every time I hear it.  And for the purposes of this post, I’d like to highlight a single line from this song (end of the second verse):  “There’s a choice we must make each and every day.”

Every year (having also just celebrated New Year’s Day), every month, every week, and yes every day and even every hour and minute, i.e., continually.

And that ongoing test (pop quiz) is not of the multiple choice variety but rather “true or false”, “A or B”.  It’s this:

God or money (Matthew 6:24, in the heart of the Sermon on the Mount).  God or pleasure (2 Timothy 3:4).  God or the world (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-16).  God or self (Luke 14:26-27; Matthew 16:24).

On one side of the (massive) chasm is God and the things of God like the Bible and prayer and worship and fellowship.

On the other side is self and pleasure and money and all the world system has to offer.

The human heart, fallen flesh, will always opt for the latter, its default position.  But I have found that the Bible is able to transform one’s mind and thus life (Romans 12:1-2) – reading it, better yet studying it, but best by far memorizing  and reciting and meditating on and in all of the three cases obeying it.  The Bible CHANGES our “default” setting!

And those verses make it crystal clear how dramatically indeed diametrically indeed direly different the results and consequences of that two-options decision confronting us continually are.  Joy or sorrow.  True success or failure.  Victory or defeat.  Life or death.  (Literally.)

The Bible in general and Bible memory on a regular, systematic (verse-by-verse, book-by-beautiful-book) basis in specific has totally transformed and revolutionized my mind.  Far from perfect.  (Still.)  (Always!  At least on this  side of eternity.)  But massive improvement in mind, spirit, soul – intentions, attentions, affections, aspirations – and even body (health, per Proverbs 4:22, so true!).

There is indeed “a choice we must make each and every day.”  You know an example of someone who chose poorly, who DIDN’T make the right decision?  His name is Demas, and even most Christians wouldn’t know that name because he plays a very small – yet stunningly sobering – role in the Bible.  By way of background, he was one of the Apostle Paul’s closest “fellow workers” – made clear by the fact that Paul mentions him by name at the end of not one but two  New Testament books (letters/epistles), Colossians and Philemon.  But later on, as (physical) death was starting to knock on Paul’s door, he mentions him in a third (his final) book, writing this:  “for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (2 Timothy 4:10).  Can you believe that?!  It blows my mind every single time.  Someone who worked and lived and breathed month after month, week after week, day after day, hour after hour beside the greatest non-Deitic person in human history (i.e., other than the Lord Jesus Himself) one day concluded that the world was more desirable than the things of God.  This should be a huge warning, a rip-roaring red flag to each and every one of us who begins to think that WE could never turn our back much less lose our love for the Lord and the Bible and the things of Him.  Just ask the church of the Laodiceans mentioned in Revelation 3:15-18.  Or, albeit on a much more temporary basis, just ask Peter, as discussed in-depth in a prior post.  If it can happen to Demas, to someone surrounded by and special to the greatest non-Deitic person ever to walk the face of the earth, and if it can happen to Peter, even if just temporarily, then it can absolutely happen to you and me if we’re not careful to correctly navigate “the choice” which is ours daily, never letting a sure-to-sink-us sense of self-sufficiency creep in. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

You know a great example of someone who made the RIGHT if not (initially) easy choice?  Moses, “choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:25-26)

Verse 27 goes on to say, “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is unseen.”

And that, my friend, is the essence of faith and the only ultimately good thing in this world, in this life.  As SEEING the UNSEEN.  Few four-word phrases have fixed my focus forward and upward like this one has.  As seeing the unseen.

You see, the human heart and mind and body will naturally gravitate to things that can be seen, that are visible.  But faith does – enables us to do – the exact OPPOSITE.  It’s a lot like that famous quote by one of the greatest and quite arguably THE greatest hockey player of all time, who credited his unbelievable success to the fact that “other players skate to where the puck is; I skate to where the puck is going to be.”

The key to being “great” in the Christian life and indeed life itself is to look “not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are NOT seen.”  (I’d love to take credit for that quote but nope, it was written by the beloved Apostle Paul superintended by the Holy Spirit – 2 Corinthians 4:18)  Not the things that are but the things that are to come.

And the results?  The amazing results?  Going back to Hebrews 11 – every bit as applicable today as then:  “who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong [perhaps my favorite five-word phrase!]…” (Hebrews 11:33-34)

Moses “left Egypt” and likewise we would be wise to evacuate the world system by outright rejecting all it has to offer, “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (1 John 2:16).  The “passing pleasures of sin.” (Hebrews 11:25)  “Wanton pleasure.” (James 5:5)

In other words, instead of living for OUR wants and desires, we would be wise to live for His (Matthew 16:24-26).  Instead of living for OUR will, we would be wise and much better off living for His – following the perfect example set by our Lord Jesus when…

To the Father said the Son,
“Not MY will but THINE be done!” (Luke 22:42 – the Bible has it ALL!  Even great poetry… much more on this in a future post)

Summing all of this up, this is the overarching way I view it:  in life, we can either go for the icing or the cake.  Go for the icing and we’ll get neither.  Go for the cake  and we’ll get BOTH!

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33, KJV)

The choice.  Or as I like to call it… the no-brainer.  The ultimate win/win.

Yes, we CAN “have it all” – if the order and priority of our choice is right.  With a new year now underway, may we choose each and every day to live for the CAKE, and the icing will follow… like those TV ads for Meineke and Men’s Wearhouse say, “I guarantee it.”  And infinitely more importantly, God  guarantees it… give it a try and He’ll show  you why!

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